Rebels stress that their homemade weaponry is far more accurate now than it was just a few months ago, when rebels admitted rockets they made often misfired wildly.
We tested the rockets before we used them, and they are 90 percent accurate," said a weapons manufacturer who uses the nom de guerre Abu Ammar, who does his work in the same machine shop hed used before the war to manufacture baking equipment.
"We know the rockets are effective because we heard the soldiers talking about them on the radio after we began using them," said a rebel commander who was visiting Abu Ammars shop and who declined to give his name.
Abu Ammar said that he had learned to manufacture the rockets from manuals obtained by the rebel military council in Deir al Zour, the province in which Mayadeen is located. "They are Qassem rockets," he said, referring to a type of rocket widely used by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to attack targets inside Israel.
Perhaps underscoring their effectiveness, the factory in which Abu Ammar works was targeted by an airstrike minutes after he gave journalists a tour.
Despite claims of accuracy, recent rebel mortar attacks in Damascus, intended for the presidential palace and military targets, have killed civilians.
Considering the amount of long-ranged weapons now being used by the rebels, including artillery and howitzers as well as multiple-barrel rocket launchers, mortars and rockets, its hard to imagine that their use in urban areas wont result in an increase in civilian casualties, said Elliot Higgins, who writes about the weaponry used in Syria at Brown Moses Blog.
But it is doubtful rebels will abandon the weapons. Rebels in Aleppo, the countrys largest city, said earlier this month that their ability to shell government positions in response to government shelling had resulted in less government shelling.
They think now before they shell us, said a rebel commander in Aleppo who also used the nom de guerre Abu Ammar.
The rebels even have found benefit in the Syrian governments increasing use of cluster munitions, a weapon whose use soared across Syria in October, according to Nadim Houry, the deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division for the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
Cluster munitions, which break into hundreds of smaller bomblets before impact, have been outlawed by many countries as many of the bomblets frequently fail to explode and often kill civilians later on. Government aircraft used cluster munitions at least twice during fighting between rebels and government troops that had been sent to relieve the artillery base in Mayadeen last week.
But the unexploded cluster munitions also are retrieved and repurposed by the rebels in rockets and car bombs.
The Syrian government also is learning to improvise. One weapon that has spread fear in rebel-held areas is referred to simply as a barmeel Arabic for barrel. The bombs consist of explosives, sometimes manufactured from fertilizer, that are packed into a metal cylinder and fitted with a simple fuse. Once the fuse is lit, the bomb is pushed out of a helicopter toward its target.
Theories for why the government is using such weapons range from a shortage of weaponry to the possibility that such bombs, which are often simply dumped out of the back of a helicopter, dont require trained pilots to deploy them. They also allow the helicopters dropping the bombs to hover at altitudes that make it difficult for rebels to shoot them down. As a result, they are highly inaccurate.
Not every new weapon the rebels deploy is sophisticated. Members of the same group of fighters in Aleppo who said their mortar attacks were effectively reducing the governments shelling also showed a reporter videos of fighters using a giant slingshot. Many fighters use homemade periscopes, sometimes mirrors fitted onto pieces of cardboard taped together, when laying siege to government positions.
At Abu Ammars workshop, a half-built, 15-foot-tall catapult made of steel stood outside his machine shop.
Were working on making a carriage so that it is mobile, he said.
The war in eastern Syria